Dan Feldman

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Goran Dragic replaces Kevin Love in All-Star game

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The Heat (29-22) were the NBA’s best team without an All-Star.

That non-problem has been remedied.

Goran Dragic will replace injured Kevin Love in the All-Star game.

NBA release:

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic has been named by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Cleveland Cavaliers forward/center Kevin Love on Team LeBron in the 2018 NBA All-Star Game

According to NBA rules, when an All-Star is unable to participate, the commissioner shall choose a replacement from the same conference as the player who is being replaced.  Love and Dragic both play for Eastern Conference teams.  Dragic received the most voting points from NBA head coaches among Eastern Conference players who were not selected as reserves or already named as an injury replacement.

This is Dragic’s first All-Star appearance and a nice honor for someone who has been borderline deserving for so long.

But the Hornets’ Kemba Walker deserved this spot.

He’s just the better player, and he’s proving it this season. Per team possession, Walker shoots more often and more efficiently and assists more often while turning the ball over less. In these two pairs of tradeoff stats so important to point guards, Walker leads in every category.

Dragic was selected due to his team’s success. Miami is far better than 21-29 Charlotte.

But the Hornets outscore opponents by 5.8 points per 100 possessions with Walker on the court. The Heat get outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions when Dragic plays.

Charlotte’s poor record is due almost entirely to what happens in the brief periods Walker rests. Miami definitely isn’t winning despite Dragic, but the Heat’s depth shines. It’s absurd to reward or punish a player individually for how his team performs while he sits.

There should be nothing wrong with acknowledging Miami is winning with a team full of sub-stars and quality coaching. Heck, it should be celebrated.

Just not in the All-Star game when a better choice was available.

Blake Griffin: ‘Tough’ to learn of trade from Twitter, not Clippers

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Blake Griffin said he doesn’t regret not pushing for a no-trade clause in the contract he signed last summer, which allowed the Clippers – mere months after touting his significance to the franchise – to deal him to the Pistons.

But Griffin isn’t completely satisfied with how the Clippers handled the trade.

Griffin, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“Basketball is a business, the NBA is a business, and they made a decision,” Griffin told ESPN. “The only thing I just wish I had known or had the opportunity to talk to somebody beforehand. Finding out through Twitter, through other people is a tough way to find out when you’ve been with a franchise for so long. But at the end of the day, basketball is a business, and I want to play where a team wants me. And that’s why I’m excited about being here.”

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

How quickly it came together was unusual. It went from no deal on Sunday to getting serious on Sunday night to the framework of a deal by Monday.

And I know this: I know Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president, sat down with Blake Griffin earlier in the day on Monday when Blake started to get word that something may be in the works. And I was told that Lawrence Frank sat down with him at the Clippers facility and told him that, “There is a possibility that we may trade you. We don’t have an agreement yet.” And then, once they had the agreement, they let Blake know that there was a trade.

And at that point, we were very shortly after that reporting terms of the deal.

Maybe the Clippers were up front with Griffin about the possibility of him getting traded, but he saw the completed deal first on Twitter, even if they told him directly after. That’s a narrow needle to thread, but it’s one that should exonerate the Clippers. Completing a trade, especially one of this magnitude, involves many people – including from the other team. It’s not necessarily fair to blame the Clippers that someone leaked it before they could inform Griffin directly.

But this mostly sounds like a he-said, he-said situation. Is Griffin or Wojnarowski’s source more trustworthy? I have no idea. But I at least appreciate Griffin, even if scorned, putting his name behind his side of the story.

Report: After DeMarcus Cousins’ injury, Pelicans trading for Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic

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The Pelicans and Bulls pulled a humpty dumpty and put the Nikola Mirotic trade together again.

The initial deal appeared to fall apart because Mirotic used his veto power that automatically comes with being on a one-year contract and having Bird Rights at the end of it. So, the teams nullified Mirotic’s veto power by turning his one-year deal into a two-year deal by exercising his $12.5 million team option for next season now.

With Mirotic powerless to stop it (and getting his desired salary guarantee next season), he’ll go to New Orleans – primarily for a first-round pick and Omer Asik‘s burdensome contract, but with Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson and other picks also changing teams.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Pelicans were down a starting-caliber big after DeMarcus Cousinsseason-ending injury, and Mirotic will fill that hole. New Orleans clearly values protecting its two-game cushion for playoff position, and – in what has become a near-annual tradition – will deal its first-round pick to improve the present.

Mirotic is having a nice year, and his shot making – particularly while spacing the floor beyond the 3-point arc – should make New Orleans’ offense even more dangerous.

By acquiring a power forward, this pushes Anthony Davis toward center, a position he doesn’t particularly like to play. The physical pounding at center is substantial, and this increases Davis’ injury risk.

That’s why the protections on the first-round pick are important. Even at 27-23 so far, the Pelicans’ floor is somewhat low this season. Not only are there injury concerns, this team must adjust on the fly while effectively swapping Cousins for Mirotic.

Mirotic will probably welcome the challenge. He wanted to leave Chicago after a preseason practice fight with teammate Bobby Portis left Mirotic hospitalized. Mirotic returned and played well while saying the right things, and the Bulls are living up to their end of the bargain by trading him.

Asik – guaranteed $10,595,505 this season, $11,286,516 next season and $3 million of $11,977,527 the follow season – carries significant negative value. Taking him is a burden that improved Chicago’s draft return.

To lesser degrees, the same applies for Allen and Nelson, veterans who serve little purpose on the tanking/rebuilding Bulls.

Allen has been hurt, and Nelson has been ineffective. Though both are on just minimum contracts, New Orleans is perilously close to the luxury-tax line and hard cap. Dumping their salaries and clearing roster spots helps the Pelicans.

If Allen gets healthy, his defense could help a better team down the stretch. Likewise, Nelson could provide decent depth on a team short a point guard. Quincy Pondexter is probably finished.

In addition to waiving those three, I believe the Bulls would technically exercise Mirotic’s team option before the trade. If he consents based on the belief the Pelicans will do it, there’s a non-zero chance they renege. Having the option exercised first is the only surefire way for Mirotic to get his desired security.

New Orleans initially hesitated to accept Mirotic with a guaranteed 2018-19 salary in fear that’d make re-signing Cousins too expensive. The Pelicans will still have Cousins’ full Bird Rights and the ability to pay him up to the max, but they could cross the luxury-tax line, probably a no-go for ownership. But the luxury tax won’t be assessed until the end of the regular season. The way Mirotic has been playing, New Orleans might even be able to flip him for value before next season’s trade deadline.

Report: Joe Johnson wants Jazz to trade him

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The Jazz are riding rookie Donovan Mitchell‘s ups and downs, and they’re 3.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Where does that leave 36-year-old Joe Johnson?

Marc Stein of The York Times:

Johnson is earning $10,505,000 this season in the final year of his contract. Such a large expiring deal could be useful to facilitate a trade. So, I doubt Utah buys him out until after the trade deadline.

At that point, Johnson will still be owed $3,679,718. How much would he relinquish to become a free agent?

Johnson is having the worst season of his career. He’s no longer getting to the rim or drawing fouls, and he’s bricking far too many 3-pointers. Perhaps, he’s conserving energy for a playoff run. His isolation scoring tends to be more valuable in the postseason, when the game slows down. But the simplest explanation: Johnson has just aged past effectiveness.

Still, in his 17th season, Johnson carries a positive reputation. I wouldn’t be surprised if a good team signs him post-buyout.

Again, his expiring contract could facilitate a trade with teams at every level. If a good team winds up with him, it might just keep him. If he lands on a bad team or stays with a steady or sinking Utah, a buyout would make sense. However, a trade to a bad team – like to the Bulls with a pick for Nikola Mirotic – would mean re-starting buyout negotiations.

Johnson is excellent at finessing buyouts. I’d trust him to manage that more than I’d trust him on the court at this point.

Dwight Howard throws down huge dunk on Hawks’ Mike Muscala (video)

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Some Hawks were reportedly “screaming with jubilation” when Atlanta traded Dwight Howard last offseason.

Playing with the Hornets, Howard got his revenge in his return to his hometown of Atlanta last night.

Howard scored 20 points – including this massive dunk on former teammate Mike Muscala – and grabbed 12 rebounds in Charlotte’s 123-110 win. New teammate Kemba Walker scored 38.